I wrote five books this year (4 full novels and one 30k novella), along side some 60 or more serial episodes. I’m actually a little disappointed by that, I’d really hoped to get another novel out. I’m fortunate enough to be a freelancer so I have more freedom with my time and energy than others, but I can still write a full novel in a month quite comfortably. 🙂 This isn’t intended as arrogance, it’s to show you that it can be done.
This is my little guide to how to draft your books a bit quicker.
First things first – outline.
I was a pantser. I wrote a few 80k novels in a month pantsing, so it absolutely can be done, but the editing took much longer. The problem I found with pantsing is you’re discovering the story as you go along, so it might not be as tight a narrative as you’d like at the end.
Then of course there’s the problem of pausing and trying to figure out what happens next, that takes time and energy. If you outline, you know where you’re going, you can resolve any major plot and character issues ahead of time, and in theory, you’ll have a tighter first draft to edit.
There are many different ways to outline, find the one that works for you. The method I use is apparently beats, I say apparently because I was using it before I knew beats were a thing. It’s just how my mind works 🙂 I make a single sentence note for each plot point. For example:
Opening: Evie realises Quin is missing.
Speak to the lycans about the rogue.
Fight with the lycans.
Check out U Sudu.
Azfin a pain in the ass.
Argue with Kadrix.
Potential secret revealed – deal done with Kadrix.
And so on. I pulled that off the top of my head, so don’t worry about spoilers 😉
Other people prefer using far more detail, they’ll have a paragraph per chapter or per plot point. Some people use the snowflake method, figure out what works best for you. Oh and don’t worry about it taking away the magic of the story, my outline gets updated multiple times a week as I tweak them to match the bits I discover.
So you have your outline, now to the writing.
A lot of this comes down to time-management and focus. I write fast, 3,000 words an hour is perfectly reasonable for me. I do not however have very much focus, so I work in 10 minute sprints. I usually do a chapter (900-1200 words) then meander around social media for 10 minutes, then back to writing.
You might not write that quickly, and that’s completely fine. What you need to do is figure out how you can focus more, and ways to increase your writing speed. Personally I need to put my headphones in so I drown out the surrounding audio distractions. I alternate between music, and soundscapes on here I’ve been using the Sahara winds generator recently, but the waves are wonderful too.
If you get distracted by social media and such, try one of those plugins that stops you from being able to access them for an hour. Your reward for a good hour of writing is some social media time.
On the topic of rewards – you’ll write much more if writing is fun. Using a reward system is something I highly recommend. I allow myself to read a chapter of a book I’m enjoying for every two chapters I write. Some people use colourful stickers on a calendar when they reach their daily word-count goal, others use chocolate, or a trip to somewhere fun. Keeping yourself motivated and happy is really important. Don’t feel foolish about it, you’re simply hacking your own brain and psychology.
Now that you have a reason to write, you’re focused, and you know what you’re writing, you have to manage your time.
Start by figuring out when you write best, I write best when the sun’s set. I struggle to do non-work writing during the day. So I get all my freelancing done when the sun’s up, and write my fiction once the sun’s set. Maybe you’re a morning writer, can you get up 30 minutes early to jot down some words?
It comes down to giving yourself the time to write. How you do that is down to you and your life. Maybe you shut the door on your work space for an hour from 8 – 9pm and your family understands that’s your precious writing time. Maybe you sneak downstairs to write before everyone gets up. Whatever works for you, just give yourself that time.
Whatever that time is, make sure it’s devoted to your writing. If errands needs to be run and they’re going to niggle at you, do them first. Your focus needs to be absolute. No distractions.
Now create a habit.
I’ll freely admit that I only write when I’m inspired, but this is to help people write more, consistently, every day.
Our brains love routine and making our lives easier. You can use that to form a habit to help you write. You need to form cues that tell your brain you’re going to write. It’s much simpler than it sounds.
Always write in the same place. That could be your desk, your kitchen table, whatever. That is your writing place, nothing else happens there. If you have to do other things at that place, then form another cue that tells your brain it’s writing time, instead of art time or whatever. In my case, that’s putting in my headphones and starting a writing playlist. The key is to make sure you never use that cue unless you’re going to write.
If you use the music thing, only listen to said playlist when you’re writing. The moment you stop writing, stop the music and take out your headphones. Your brain will then start getting into writing mode when you sit in that spot and put on that music. It’ll take a week or so to start feeling it, and I believe three months to become truly ingrained.
Finally, you can try techniques such as sprints and the pomodoro technique. I love writing sprints during NaNoWriMo they really spur me on and help me get going. Twitter’s pretty good for bringing people together to do those.
There are two online apps you can try. Written? Kitten! Is one I love, it works on positive reinforcement and encourages you to keep going by rewarding you with adorable kitten pictures.
Write Or Die works on the opposite principle, it punishes you when you stop writing. I’ve used this a lot and found it useful to get me going when I’m feeling sluggish and can’t quite get myself going.
Both of those have a free in browser version.
I’ll list out some books and techniques that I’ve read about but haven’t tried myself:
Don’t forget to give yourself regular breaks, both throughout the day, and during the week or month. Burning out is very unpleasant, I’ve been there, I do not recommend it.
Stretch! Look after your body. Take five minutes to stretch at least once an hour. Walk around your home, or the cafe, or wherever. Stretch out your wrists, arms, shoulders, and back. You don’t want carpal tunnel syndrome or a bad back or neck. Look after yourself.
Stay hydrated and eat properly, being hungry and dehydrated will make you feel rough and blah, that’ll slow you down.
I hope this helps, happy writing!